Advice #19: Developing an Art Series & Choosing Work for Shows

When putting an art show together, how do you chose which pieces you should put in and how they all go together? I’m having a hard time of it!

When viewing gallery-based art shows, you’ll notice that the featured work is usually grouped together in some manner whether that be by genre, subject, medium or color palette.

A body of work is a collection of pieces that represent an artist’s style or techniques. There tends to be a common characteristic that pulls the work together. As an example, my work is usually collage-based and composed on a bare wood surface with a resin finish.

Work from the Black & White Graphic Insight series, 2008

If you’re interested in seeking gallery representation, most curators will expect that you’ve developed a minimum of 15 to 20 pieces that demonstrate your skill and style, but I usually aim for closer to 30. Sticking to a consistent vision for the entire series may seem contrary to what being an artist is about (i.e. freedom of creativity and expression) but it announces to the art world that you have developed a focus and can carry it out to completion. Also, as you move along, try envisioning how your work will look hanging together.

When you’re starting out, sticking to a specific style may seem boring at first, but if you’re looking for representation, a gallery wants to see consistency. If you get signed and show up with illustrations of women painted with oils one month, screen printed rock posters the next and landscapes in watercolors shortly thereafter, the curator is going to think that you’ve completely lost your mind.

Keep a theme and format in mind when developing a series.

As you develop your style and begin to build a following, people should have a general idea of what to expect as they come back for more of your work. This is not in any way suggesting that all of your work should look the same; that would be boring! Rather, these general guidelines are more of a friendly reminder as you dive into the creative process.

There is no right or wrong answer when considering what order to hang your work, but try to consider contrast or unity. Visualize how you’d like the show to flow from beginning to end and in which order the patron will be viewing it.

Solo Show at Nemo HQ, 2008

Once you’ve hung your work don’t forget to leave room for an artist statement. Most often it is placed at the beginning of the exhibit so that the audience can gain a better understanding of the context behind the work before viewing it on a more detailed scale.

Since fine art is such a personal exploration, the rules aren’t set in stone but rather a general consensus to get you going. And, it should be noted that if you plan to make art for personal pleasure and not for consumption on the gallery circuit, then feel free to throw caution to the wind!

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